“What did you intend to communicate?” often accompanies the question, “What did you actually communicate?”
Have you ever been in a situation where the response you received to a question or statement indicated that what you intended to communicate was clearly not what was communicated?
As leaders, we may have all been in this situation before. If we have, it’s essential to reflect on what we learnt from the experience. In the future, do we need to be more careful about how we communicate? Or better still, do we need to be more intentional about our communication?
And therein lies the power of intentional communication: to communicate the very thing we intended to communicate in a way that is received well and has a lasting impact across the organisation, team, or with an individual.
Using a coaching lens, we aim to highlight the power of intentional communication and its close cousin, unintentional communication, in this blog.
“The reason is that while most of us think we’re intentional about our communications, we’re actually rarely so. The reason is that we spend a lot of time thinking consciously about what we’re trying to say, but we don’t often spend much time thinking about how we’re going to say it.” - Nick Morgan
A key aspect of developing a coaching approach to intentional communication is building relationships, rapport, and trust. Trust-based relationships are vital for the power of intentional communication because where there is trust, there is a bridge for positive perceptions.
Although we can be as intentional as possible in how we communicate in all our conversations, in low-trust relationships, we are likely to communicate differently than we intended. For this reason, we need to build relationships and trust before communicating important things. This is required even more so when working in a hybrid or remote way.
Discussing trust, leadership, and communication, a recent article by Forbes points out that trust impacts what we communicate and how what we communicate impacts whether other people trust us or not.
When seeking to build trust-based relationships, here are some tips to consider:
Be vulnerable and share your opinions and feelings.
Make sure not all communication is task related – some communication can be personal.
Take a genuine interest in other people.
Mean what you say, and say what you mean.
Keep confidence; don’t talk about people negatively.
Be kind and demonstrate benevolence.
Live your values and purpose as much as possible, and admit when you have missed the mark.
Time to Think
When communicating intentionally, it is vital to value your thinking and give yourself time to think. If you think before you speak, you will speak with far more intention.
Here are some coaching questions that you can ponder to improve your thinking:
Whose thinking is most valued in this organisation, and who is rarely asked to share their thinking?
What is the purpose of this communication?
What is the intended outcome of this communication?
What impact do we want to see this communication achieve?
How would that look if we were to clearly and concisely state the answers to these questions?
What unintended communication might happen?
What is our method of communication, and what does using that method communicate to the people we are communicating with?
If I am communicating in person, what does my body language say that my words do not?
What are our emotions when we write or give this communication?
What are we feeling?
In what ways are our feelings also being communicated?
How does this align with what we intend to communicate?
If you take time to think, you can avoid communication that is off-the-cuff, lazy, overly brief, and based on your immediate perceptions, feelings, and bias.
Be Aware of Your Emotions
As a leader who wishes to capture the power of intentional communication, it is essential that you have emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence includes being self-aware of your emotions and having the ability to bring the correct emotion to each situation.
If you are to take advantage of the power of intentional communication, it is important not to suppress or mask your emotions. Not only is this personally damaging, but it carries the risk of possible outbursts or other regrettable actions.
When you communicate, how often do you consider your chosen method of communication?
Whilst you may not think your chosen method of communication makes a difference when you communicate, you communicate your emotions in many ways. It is, therefore, important that each different mode of communication you choose matches emotionally.
For example, you may initially communicate an important message through email to ensure everyone receives the information simultaneously. Video messages, team briefings, open forums and individual conversations may follow this.
The emotions communicated may vary slightly in each of these different modes, as is the nature of communication and the different modes. But any large variation in perceived emotions will undermine the intended message.
To further this example, let us take two emotions of excitement and cautiousness. If the email is full of exciting opportunities, but other communications carry cautiousness, then the same content is communicated differently.
For the power of intentional communication to make a lasting impact, we need to be aware of our interwoven emotions, decide if these are the best emotions for this communication, and then make sure that we communicate with those emotions consistently.
Daniel Goleman’s work on Emotional Intelligence leads the way in this thinking and is an excellent aid for intentional communication.
The Power of Intentional Communication Summary
As we have explored the power of intentional communication and how to ensure this has a lasting impact, we have considered our relationships and levels of trust. We've also explored the quality of our thinking time in preparation for communication and how to consistently bring the right emotions, interwoven with the content, to our communication.
Contact Us Today
At The Leadership Coaches, our courses for developing a coaching approach in organisations help support all the points in this blog when looking to release the power of intentional communication, including building trusted relationships.
Book a free consultation by calling us today if you want to find out how our expert coaching services can support you in capturing the power of intentional communication.
Written by Ian at The Leadership Coaches
“How to communicate intentionally” by Forbes https://www.forbes.com/sites/nickmorgan/2015/04/21/how-to-communicate-intentionally/
“Communicating Intentionally, the Basics” by Intentional Communication https://intentionalcommunication.com/communicating-intentionally-the-basics/
Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman